Book Review: The Facebook Effect

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

With more than 400 million users, Facebook is changing the way the world communicates. David Kirkpatrick’s new book, The Facebook Effect, gives a behind-the-scenes look at the world's biggest social network.

The book opens with an arresting story of Facebook’s real-life influence.

One January night in 2008, Oscar Morales, a civil engineer in Barranquilla, Colombia, created a Facebook page protesting FARC, a guerrilla army that has been terrorizing the country for decades. By the next morning, 1,500 people had joined One Million Voices Against FARC, and from there, membership exploded. One month after the page’s creation, ten million people took to the streets in an organized protest.

As David Kirkpatrick puts it, “The movement that began with an impassioned midnight Facebook post in one frustrated young man’s bedroom led to one of the largest demonstrations ever, anywhere in the world.”

Facebook itself began in a bedroom – or rather, in the dorm room of Harvard sophomore Mark Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg created “Thefacebook” in 2004 as an online version of the student-mugshot-filled “face books” that schools like Harvard published each year to introduce the incoming freshman class. Zuckerberg wanted to help students enhance real-life relationships by making it easier to share information and network online in a private but transparent forum where, unlike most previous Internet forums, people would use their real identities.

Facebook quickly outgrew the college realm. Now, with nearly half a billion users and an estimated value of over $10 billion, Facebook is second only to Google in terms of Internet traffic.

A former technology editor for Fortune magazine, Kirkpatrick was granted pretty much unrestricted access to his subject. At the heart of his report is Zuckerberg, the earnest but reluctant CEO – a slacker wunderkind, taking meetings with investors by day and partying with his college-buddies-cum-employees by night.

Combining comprehensive corporate history, rich character descriptions and a bit of web 2.0 philosophizing, The Facebook Effect shows how Zuckerberg’s brainchild massively outgrew every other social network – and how it’s changing the rules of human interaction.

If you’re interested in hearing the story straight from the source, you’ll want to be there when David Kirkpatrick comes to the Central Library on Tuesday, July 20, at 6:30 p.m. to discuss his book and take questions from the audience.

For a preview taste, here’s an interview with Kirkpatrick from the Davos World Economic Forum.

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-- Jason Harper